Three young men have lost their lives, in what may be a case of targeted violence with communal undertones in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. However the deaths have been reported as an accident, by Amar Ujala, Jagran, and the Hindustan, leading Hindi newspapers of the state. According to those news reports, the victims were identified as Lalla (19) from Berhampur, Ishtiaq (24) and Salluddin (26), both reportedly from Salempura.
According to Amar Ujala, the young men were returning from a wedding function on Saturday night on a scooty, when they were killed around dawn on Sunday in a “road accident”. The accident reportedly happened on the Varanasi-Ghazipur highway but there is no detail on what vehicle allegedly hit the three men. However, it adds that the three were killed on the spot and the local police of Chiraigaon had sent the bodies for post mortem examination. The police has also reportedly said it is not known which vehicle had allegedly hit the scooty, and have registered an FIR against an “unknown vehicle driver” in the Chaubepur police station. This report also fails to mention details of who alerted the police? Were there eyewitnesses? Did anyone see or make note of the second vehicle involved?
The Jagran report, in fact, details that the three were returning from a wedding at Dulhipur village, and Istiyaq and Salluddin were going to drop Lalla home on the scooty. It added that the three were hit by a speeding vehicle which then “vanished”. Then the locals alerted the police who found identification papers in the victims’ pockets and alerted their families. This report also added that the three youths were also speeding, but then fails to question that if there were eyewitnesses to the “accident” why is there no information about the other vehicle? However, it does mention that there may be CCTV footage that the police will use to search for the second vehicle that “disappeared” so fast that none of the locals spotted or heard it.
Meanwhile an online portal Janavarta added that as soon as the families were told about the deaths there has been a pall of gloom at the residences of the victims. However, this is where the deaths need to be investigated deeper and perhaps the suggestions of some locals that this may be more than a routine road accident investigated.
According to a local resident, who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons, the youth may have been killed because they allegedly traded in selling Nilgai meat. Two of the deceased are from the Quraishi community, who are traditionally meat traders. According to locals, the third man may have been perceived as an accomplice. The villagers are now too scared to talk about the incident at all.
However, the Nilgai (blue bull) is a large antelope and not a cow, even though its name suggests otherwise. But, in Uttar Pradesh, it is prohibited to hunt Nilgai, a protected species, under Schedule 3 of the Wildlife Protection Act. In fact, two people were arrested in November 2020, and accused of the act.
Varanasi police officials were unavailable for comment at the time of publishing this report. This is a developing story and will be updated as and when more information, and an official police statement becomes available.
Meanwhile, in November 2020, Uttarakhand government had declared Nilgai a ‘vermin’ stated news reports from that time. The Uttarakhand government had got a nod from the Centre and declared the Nilgai a vermin that can be killed after seeking permission from the forest department. The intention was to save farmers from losing their crops, which this antelope is known to destroy. The wild boar was also declared a “vermin” under the same rule. However the culling of both these animals was allowed only as prescribed in the rule book. According to news reports from then, the many rules and instructions include: “Vermins can be killed only with a firearm and one cannot chase an injured animal right inside forests. Carcasses have to be discarded in the presence of forest personnel.”
However, none of that seems to matter for now in Uttar Pradesh, especially in the village of these three young men, whose families and communities are now too scared to talk to the media, and fear for their own safety.